'Yankee in Kamchatka' tours Russian wilderness

June 17, 1991|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Evening Sun Staff

Chances are if you've heard of the Kamachatka Peninsula, it is not with a pleasant connotation. It was in the vicinity of this miliarily significant chunk of land that thrusts out the sides of Siberia that the Korean Airlines Flight 007 was shot down.

Robbie Perkins of Boston had a much gentler introduction to the Kamchatka, a book written in the 1860s by George Kennan about a trek across this region. Perkins, through his friendship with Vasily Perskov, a Russian nature photographer, was able to overcome the Russian military's objections and go there for seven weeks last year.

The results can be seen in "Yankee in Kamchatka," tonight's installment of PBS' "Adventure" series that will be on Maryland Public Television, channels 22 and 67, tonight at 8 o'clock.

Perkins is a canoeist by avocation -- an account of his solo paddle across northern Canada, "Into the Solitude," was on "Adventure" a couple of years ago -- so his plan was to head down a Kamchatka river Kennan had written about. But there were a couple of days of fighting through fallen trees before the river revealed its beauty.

Eventually Perkins acceded to his host's wishes and took off in a helicopter, taking his cameras to towering volcanic mountain ranges, an exceedingly friendly nomadic people who round up reindeer as cowboys once did cattle, a Yellowstone-like setting of geysers and hot springs, a spectacular, rugged coastline.

"Yankee in Kamchatka" is filled with Perkins' gentle, almost childlike, philosophical observations even as its pictures communicate a message equally simple and profound, that the wonder of wilderness does not respect political boundaries, it speaks in a universal language.

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